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Gloom climate news may encourage people

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Tāmaki Makaurau – A team of Penn State University researchers have investigated how seeing frightening news about climate change day after day may shape the way people feel about the phenomenon and how willing they are to take action to address it.

The US research team found seeing bad news about climate change can make people more afraid over time but may encourage them to think about what society can do to address the problem.

They published the results of two separate studies in an article which appeared in the journal Climatic Change.

The public is surrounded by media coverage about climate change, and this messaging tends to be negative in tone, focusing on the threats that climate change poses to human prosperity and ecological health,” the researchers say.

The first study involved exposing participants to three days of negative news stories about climate change. A follow-up study consisted of participants reading negative news headlines about climate change in the form of Twitter posts for seven consecutive days.

They learned that three days in a row of reading doom and gloom news stories about climate change was linked to greater fear and less hope, which can potentially hurt people’s attitude that they can do anything to tackle the problem.

The researchers reported over time, people who repeatedly saw climate change headlines started to feel like they could do more to affect change and that the topic of climate change was important.

People’s efficacy beliefs increased over time. In other words, the more exposure people had to these threatening news stories each day, they were increasingly likely to think that they can make a difference in addressing climate change.

Skurka said one possibility is that as the public copes with unpleasant feelings about the enormous threat climate change presents, they may convince themselves that they have control over the situation, which translates into greater efficacy beliefs that their actions will make a difference.

The findings suggest people have become accustomed to reading more around climate change and what may be more important for motivating them to take action is that they see coverage of it on a daily basis.